A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted two Los Angeles-area men on conspiracy and hate crime offenses for allegedly attacking five victims last November at the family-owned Café Istanbul in Beverly Hills. According to a release from the Department of Justice, the men perpetrated the attack “while shouting anti-Turkish slurs, hurling chairs at the victims and threatening to kill them.”
Café Istanbul is located on the 300 block of South Beverly Drive. Sam Turac, a nephew of the restaurant owner, gave the Courier details first reported in its November 6, 2020 issue (“Restaurant in Beverly Hills Victimized by Alleged Hate Crime.”)
Turac described the events of November 4, 2020 as follows: “Three or four gentlemen entered the store and started breaking stuff. We had five members of our family here at the time. The men started throwing chairs at my uncle, who got up and went to the front to protect my aunt. But, my aunt realized there were several other men with the group just waiting, so she pulled my uncle back in. They completely trashed the place. They shattered all of our computers. One of the guys picked up my aunt’s phone and put it in his pocket. My uncle went to the E.R. because he had bruises from where the chair hit him,” said Turac.
The federal indictment was filed April 14 and unsealed on April 27. That same day, Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 23, of Tujunga was arrested and arraigned in United States District Court in Los Angeles. The second defendant, William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, is in state custody and is expected to appear in federal court in the next few weeks.
Chalikyan and Stepanyan are charged with one count of conspiracy and five hate crimes. If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the hate crime charges and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge.
According to the indictment, the two defendants were on their way to a rally last November to protest against military aggression by Turkey against Armenians. Stepanyan allegedly sent a text message saying that he planned to go “hunting for [T]urks.” Later that day, Stepanyan met with Chalikyan and other Armenian-Americans to protest against the treatment of Armenia by Turkey. Thereafter, the group drove to Café Istanbul.
The indictment specifies that during the attack, multiple victims were injured, including one individual who lost feeling in his limbs. Stepanyan and Chalikyan also allegedly caused more than $20,000 in damage to the premises.